Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Four Awarded World Cup Berths

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – FIBA announced Saturday that Brazil, Finland, Greece and Turkey have been awarded wild card berths to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, to be played Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain.

The four teams complete the field of 24 (see the full list below), which will be drawn into four groups of six on Monday.

Brazil played awful at the FIBA Americas tournament last summer, but was without all four of their NBA big men (Vitor Faverani, Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Vareajao). If they have point guard Marcelo Huertas, two of the bigs and a shooter or two, they will be one of the better teams in Spain. As the U.S. has won 36 straight games in international competition, Brazil has come the closest to knocking them off. Brazil is also the host of the 2016 Olympics, which was certainly a factor in their selection.

Greece is the last team to beat the U.S., pulling off the upset in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship. They had top-five finishes in four straight Eurobasket tournaments from 2003 to 2009 (winning in 2005), but the best players from their golden years aren’t playing anymore. They still have a solid roster, but lost in the round of 16 at the 2010 World Championship and also failed to make the quarterfinals at last year’s Eurobasket.

Turkey played great as the home team in 2010, going 8-0 before falling to the U.S. in the gold medal game. But (though most of the roster was sporting fabulous tans) they were a disappointing 1-4 at Eurobasket last summer.

Finland went 5-3 at Eurobasket, with wins over Turkey and Greece. And their wild card big was apparently aided by Finnish video game developer Rovio, which promised to provide free advertising for the national team and the World Cup if Finland was selected. So if you’re angry that Andrew Wiggins won’t be playing in Spain next summer, be angry at Angry Birds.

There were originally 15 applicants for the four wild card spots, but reports had China, Italy, Germany and Russia bowing out. That certainly thinned out the field, but not enough to get Canada into the tournament. Given their NBA-level talent and their numbers from last year’s FIBA Americas tournament, the Canadian National Team (managed by Steve Nash and coached by Blazers assistant Jay Triano) is clearly the biggest snub.

In addition to Wiggins, Canada has a deep core of young talent (Anthony Bennett, Tyler EnnisCory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson, Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson). It would have been great to see that group in Spain this summer, but they only have themselves to blame for not qualifying. After going 4-1 to start last year’s tournament (Bennett, Olynyk and Wiggins didn’t play), they dropped their final three games (by a total of 18 points) to finish sixth, with only the top four teams receiving automatic bids.

So Canada should be rooting for the U.S. in Spain. If the U.S. wins gold at the World Cup, they automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympics and have no need to send a team to the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament, where the top two finishers will receive automatic Olympic bids. But if the U.S. doesn’t win gold this summer, there’s one less spot available for a team from North, South or Central America. There will be an additional qualifying tournament in 2016 before the Olympics (for three more berths), but given the relative strengths of the Americas and Europe, Canada’s best chance at the ’16 Olympics is probably next summer  … as long as the U.S. isn’t there.

Amazingly, Canada had the best defense and best point differential of last year’s FIBA Americas tournament. Here are efficiency numbers from last summer’s FIBA events (FIBA Africa, FIBA Americas, FIBA Asia, and Eurobasket) for all 15 of the original wild card applicants…

2013 stats of wild card applicants

Team OffRtg RK AdjO ORK DefRtg RK AdjD ORK NetRtg RK ORK
Nigeria
109.4 1 +18.5 2 93.8 9 +2.9 41 +15.6 5 9
Brazil
94.9 9 -10.2 58 107.4 7 +2.3 38 -12.5 8 54
Canada
107.0 5 +2.0 26 97.6 1 -7.5 10 +9.5 1 12
Venezuela
103.7 6 -1.4 36 100.2 2 -4.8 12 +3.5 6 22
China
110.7 3 +12.4 5 90.2 3 -8.0 9 +20.4 3 6
Qatar
98.8 7 +0.6 32 99.1 7 +0.9 31 -0.3 8 28
Bosnia
101.4 14 -1.3 35 103.0 11 +0.2 30 -1.5 9 29
Finland
97.8 18 -5.0 42 101.1 6 -1.6 21 -3.4 14 36
Germany
106.0 6 +3.2 21 107.7 19 +4.9 48 -1.7 10 30
Greece
110.6 1 +7.8 9 104.0 13 +1.3 33 +6.6 4 17
Israel
98.3 17 -4.4 40 101.2 7 -1.6 22 -2.8 12 34
Italy
105.2 9 +2.4 25 102.5 10 -0.3 28 +2.7 6 23
Poland
95.5 21 -7.3 51 107.9 20 +5.1 49 -12.4 23 52
Russia
97.8 19 -5.0 43 104.5 15 +1.8 36 -6.8 19 42
Turkey
103.5 12 +0.7 30 113.3 24 +10.6 59 -9.9 22 48

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
AdjO = Points scored per 100 possessions, compared to event average
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
AdjD = Points allowed per 100 possessions, compared to event average
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
RK = Rank within that event
ORK = Rank among 65 teams in four events

As you can see, Brazil was the worst of the group and Turkey was pretty awful too. But apparently, if you didn’t automatically qualify, it didn’t really matter what you did last summer.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

Team Qualified
Angola FIBA Africa champion
Argentina FIBA Americas champion
Australia FIBA Oceania champion
Brazil Wildcard
Croatia Eurobasket 4th place
Dominican Republic FIBA Americas 2nd place
Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
Finland Wildcard
France Eurobasket champion
Greece Wildcard
Iran FIBA Asia champion
Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
Lithuania Eurobasket 2nd place
Mexico FIBA Americas 3rd place
New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
Puerto Rico FIBA Americas 4th place
Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
Serbia Eurobasket 7th place
Slovenia Eurobasket 5th place
Spain Host
Turkey Wildcard
Ukraine Eurobasket 6th place
USA 2012 Olympic champion

Canada Market Booms as NBA Takes On World; ‘Down Under’ Next?

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Chances are good next June that for the second consecutive year, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft will have honed his skills and built his street cred on the asphalt courts of … Toronto, Ontario. And with Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins as a favourite to take the maple-leaf baton from UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, we might want to refer to the heated jockeying for position among likely lottery teams as tanquing, for this season anyway.

A rising interest in Canada in the NBA is the primary reason behind tonight’s game in Montreal, when the Boston Celtics (with first-round pick Kelly Olynyk, a 7-footer from Kamloops by way of Gonzaga) face the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Bell Centre. A year ago, the NBA staged its first-ever NBA Canada Series preseason games in that country (Knicks-Raptors in Montreal, Pistons-Timberwolves in Winnipeg) and the only thing surprising about that was that it took so long.

The Raptors, obviously, have been playing preseason games there since they entered the league via expansion in 1995. So did their newbie cohort Vancouver Grizzlies for six seasons, until their move to Memphis in 2001.

The NBA’s and basketball’s roots in the nation are undeniable. The man who invented the game in 1891, Dr. James Naismith, was a Canadian, after all. And what is accepted as the NBA’s inaugural game was played at Maple Leaf Gardens between the New York Knicks and the Toronto Huskies, who lasted one season in the precursor BAA.

Sixty-seven years later, the NBA has just the Raptors’ as its single toehold in Canada, and it stages its preseason games there much as it does in exotic lands like Taiwan and Brazil, with a missionary zeal that creates festivals of NBA basketball, stirring casual interest rather than relying on hardcore devotees of the league. The Grizzlies are gone, and expansion even in U.S. cities appears to be low on commissioner David Stern‘s or presumptive replacement Adam Silver‘s lists of priorities.

Beneath the surface, however, there may be something building.

(more…)

FIBA Wrap: France Takes Eurobasket Gold

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The gold medal game at EuroBasket was a matchup of the tournament’s second best offense and its third best defense. The offense was better as France won its first ever EuroBasket title with an easy 80-66 victory over Lithuania on Sunday.

France’s offense is a thing of beauty when it’s clicking, and it was doing just that in the final. No big heroics were needed from Tony Parker, who scored just 12 points. Nicolas Batum led France with 17, while Boris Diaw added 15.

A big first quarter from Linas Kleiza had Lithuania up three, but France closed the second period on a 14-0 run to take control. They shot just 5-for-21 from 3-point range, but outrebounded Lithuania 42-35. They knocked off two-time defending EuroBasket champion Spain on Friday and backed that win up with the gold medal on Sunday, the biggest win in French basketball history.

NBA TV will air the final at 5 p.m. ET on Monday and again at 12:30 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Earlier on Sunday, Spain blew out Croatia to win the bronze medal. Spain lost four times, but finished with, by far, the tournament’s best point differential. The four losses were by an average of 5.3 points and their seven wins were by an average of 27.3.

So men’s FIBA action is wrapped up for 2013. Over the course of five events and 237 total games, 18 teams qualified for next year’s World Cup of Basketball. Here’s the field as it stands, with the U.S. and Spain having pre-qualified and four wildcards to be determined later this year…

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 France Eurobasket champion
16 Lithuania Eurobasket second place
17 Croatia Eurobasket 4th place
18 Slovenia Eurobasket 5th place
19 Ukraine Eurobasket 6th place
20 Serbia Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

France won the biggest tournament and Spain is still the best team outside the U.S. But the most dominant team this summer was Iran, which went 9-0 at the FIBA Asia championship, outscoring its opponents by more than 42 points per 100 possessions behind the interior defense and rebounding of Hamed Haddadi.

Of course, there were some really bad teams at FIBA Asia (Malaysia shot 27 percent from the field), as well as at FIBA Africa, where Angola went 7-0 and outscored its opponents by over 27 points per 100 possessions. But we can get a decent idea of where teams were weak and strong by looking at their offensive and defensive efficiency numbers.

Overall, FIBA Americas was the most efficient tournament of the four. Here are the OffRtg (points scored per 100 possessions) numbers for each tournament…
FIBA Africa: 90.9
FIBA Americas: 105.1
FIBA Asia: 98.2
Eurobasket: 102.8

(Yeah, be happy you didn’t watch those FIBA Africa games.)

And here are the numbers for the 17 World Cup qualifiers that played at the four big tournaments this summer. We’re not including FIBA Oceania qualifiers Australia and New Zealand here, because they just played a two-game series against each other.

World Cup of Basketball qualifiers, 2013 stats

Event Team OffRtg RK AdjO ORK DefRtg RK AdjD ORK NetRtg RK
Africa Angola 104.2 2 +13.3 3 77.0 3 -13.8 5 +27.2 1
Africa Egypt 86.8 9 -4.1 39 89.6 6 -1.3 24 -2.8 8
Africa Senegal 84.9 11 -6.0 46 87.1 5 -3.8 14 -2.2 7
Americas Argentina 110.9 2 +5.9 13 102.9 4 -2.2 19 +8.0 2
Americas Dominican Rep. 108.7 4 +3.6 18 102.8 3 -2.2 17 +5.9 5
Americas Mexico 111.8 1 +6.7 12 104.1 6 -1.0 25 +7.7 3
Americas Puerto Rico 109.5 3 +4.4 16 103.1 5 -2.0 20 +6.4 4
Asia Iran 117.7 1 +19.5 1 75.6 1 -22.6 1 +42.1 1
Asia Korea 111.4 2 +13.2 4 86.8 2 -11.4 6 +24.6 2
Asia Philippines 107.6 5 +9.3 7 95.3 5 -3.0 16 +12.3 4
Eurobasket Croatia 102.0 13 -0.7 34 101.9 8 -0.9 26 +0.2 8
Eurobasket France 110.5 2 +7.8 10 100.6 5 -2.2 18 +10.0 2
Eurobasket Lithuania 104.1 11 +1.4 28 96.1 3 -6.7 11 +8.1 3
Eurobasket Serbia 105.5 7 +2.8 22 108.1 21 +5.4 51 -2.6 11
Eurobasket Slovenia 104.7 10 +2.0 27 104.0 12 +1.2 32 +0.8 7
Eurobasket Spain 109.8 3 +7.1 11 88.7 1 -14.0 4 +21.1 1
Eurobasket Ukraine 100.8 16 -2.0 38 105.7 16 +2.9 40 -4.9 16

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
AdjO = Points scored per 100 possessions, compared to event average
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
AdjD = Points allowed per 100 possessions, compared to event average
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
RK = Rank within that event
ORK = Rank among 65 teams in four events

Four teams – Egypt, Senegal, Serbia and Ukraine – qualified with negative point differentials. And there were teams that played better overall, but failed to earn an automatic bid.

Wildcard candidates, 2013 stats

Event Team OffRtg RK AdjO ORK DefRtg RK AdjD ORK NetRtg RK
Africa Nigeria 109.4 1 +18.5 2 93.8 9 +2.9 41 +15.6 5
Africa Tunisia 98.8 3 +7.9 8 81.7 4 -9.2 7 +17.1 4
Americas Brazil 94.9 9 -10.2 58 107.4 7 +2.3 38 -12.5 8
Americas Canada 107.0 5 +2.0 26 97.6 1 -7.5 10 +9.5 1
Asia China 110.7 3 +12.4 5 90.2 3 -8.0 9 +20.4 3
Eurobasket Greece 110.6 1 +7.8 9 104.0 13 +1.3 33 +6.6 4
Eurobasket Italy 105.2 9 +2.4 25 102.5 10 -0.3 28 +2.7 6
Eurobasket Latvia 105.3 8 +2.6 24 99.7 4 -3.1 15 +5.6 5
Eurobasket Russia 97.8 19 -5.0 43 104.5 15 +1.8 36 -6.8 19
Eurobasket Turkey 103.5 12 +0.7 30 113.3 24 +10.6 59 -9.9 22

Again, the Africa and Asia teams look the best by the numbers, but Canada, Greece and Italy are probably the most deserving, given the competition that they faced. It’s pretty amazing that three teams in the top six in NetRtg at EuroBasket failed to finish in the top seven.

Brazil played terribly at FIBA Americas, but by adding a few of its NBA players — Leandro Barbosa, Vitor Faverani, Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao — it can make the most upgrades to its roster for the WCOB. Canada, with Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, can make some too.

Along with Brazil (9), Greece (4), Russia (6), Turkey (7) and China (11) all had places in the top 11 of FIBA’s rankings before the summer began. Those rankings will change now, but picking four wildcards will not be easy.

FIBA Update: Three More Earn Bids

Luis Scola, now with the Pacers, had a major impact on Argentina's win over Canada.

Luis Scola, now with the Pacers, had a major impact on Argentina’s win over Canada.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Three more teams punched their tickets to next year’s World Cup of Basketball on Sunday. The Dominican Republic, Argentina and Mexico will be in Spain next summer, thanks to the results of the first two games at the FIBA Americas tournament in Caracas.

In the first game on Sunday, the Dominican used a 9-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to take control against Uruguay. They held on for their fifth straight win, earning the country its first berth in a major international hoops tournament since 1978. Al Horford didn’t play this summer, but he could join Francisco Garcia and company next summer in Spain. He certainly seems excited about the possibility…

In the second game, Argentina finished the third quarter on a 20-6 run to turn a nine-point deficit into a five-point lead. Behind a huge game (28 points and seven rebounds) from Luis Scola, they held on to beat Canada and get back to the world stage. And it will be interesting to see if veterans like Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino and Pablo Prigioni will join them for one more run next summer in Spain.

For Canada, this was a brutal end to the tournament. They won four of their first five games, but then lost their last three (by an average of six points) to get sent home. When Argentina made its third-quarter run, the Canadians simply couldn’t handle the pressure.

Cory Joseph (16.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists), Andrew Nicholson (15.0 points on 53 percent shooting) and Tristan Thompson (11.6 points and 10.0 rebounds) all had their moments during the tournament, but consistency was an issue.

If they finished in the top four, the trio (along with Joel Anthony) could have been joined by Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk at the World Cup next summer. With four wild card invitations to be handed out later this year, that possibility still exists, but there’s already a strong list of wild card candidates — including Brazil, China and Nigeria — who will be joined by a few solid European teams.

The Argentina win also clinched a spot for Mexico, who owned the tiebreaker over Venezuela. Mexico went on to make things doubly official with a win over Puerto Rico, who rested Carlos Arroyo, Renaldo Balkman and J.J. Barea, having clinched a top-four spot on Saturday. So we should be seeing the the Hawks’ Gustavo Ayon (averaging 16.4 points and 8.0 rebounds) next summer in Spain.

The FIBA Americas semifinals, which will be largely ceremonial, take place Tuesday.

Eurobasket field thins out after Monday

After Day 5 of Eurobasket, only one team remains unbeaten and, surprise, it’s Italy. Led by 42 combined points from the Spurs’ Marco Belinelli (23) and the Pistons’ Luigi Datome (19), the Italians beat Greece in a matchup of 3-0 teams on Sunday. Both teams, along with Finland (3-1) are on their way to the second round as Group D’s three representatives.

The other unbeaten teams going into Sunday’s action were host Slovenia and Mike Fratello‘s Ukraine squad. Slovenia held a 13-point lead in the third quarter over Croatia. But Croatia came back and won in overtime to join Spain and Slovenia at 3-1 in Group C. The Czech Republic has a shot to crash the party if they can beat Croatia on Monday.

Ukraine was knocked off by France (Tony Parker had 28 points), leaving things still up in the air in Group A, where Ukraine-Great Britain will be Monday’s big game. Similarly, Bosnia-Lithuania could shake things up in Group B.

Eurobasket top offenses (points scored per 100 possessions) through Sunday (4 games):
1. Greece – 115.6
2. Italy – 114.2
3. Georgia – 112.2
4. France – 111.2
5. Germany – 105.4

Eurobasket top defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) through Sunday (4 games):
1. Spain – 76.0
2. Finland – 86.3
3. Lithuania – 90.6
4. Czech Republic – 92.2
5. Italy – 95.2

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Argentina FIBA Americas top four
12 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas top four
13 Mexico FIBA Americas top four
14 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas top four
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

FIBA Update: Puerto Rico Is Going To Spain

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – FIBA qualifying is still as wide open as ever, especially in Caracas, where the final day of pool play will determine the Americas’ three automatic berths for next summer’s World Cup of Basketball.

All we know right now is that Puerto Rico is going to Spain next summer. They clinched a spot in the FIBA Americas semifinals and one of the four bids with a thrilling victory over Venezuela on Saturday night.

Venezuela led by 22 points in the second quarter and was up 11 with four minutes left in the fourth, but J.J. Barea and Renaldo Balkman led Puerto Rico all the way back. Venezuela had chances to win at the end of regulation and overtime, but Donta Smith came up empty both times.

Barea led all scorers with 30 points, hitting seven of his 11 3-point attempts, two of them desperation heaves late in the shot clock in the final minutes of the fourth and overtime. Balkman, meanwhile, finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocks. The competition isn’t the best and he has his issues, but he has looked great in these games.

Venezuela, playing without Greivis Vasquez and Greg Echenique, still has a shot at the top four, but must beat on Sunday night and get some help in one of the earlier games.

The Dominican Republic came up with two huge wins over the last two nights to put themselves in great position for one of the top four spots. They handed Puerto Rico their only loss on Friday and then beat Canada on Saturday, coming back from early deficits in each game.

So if the D.R. can beat 2-5 Uruguay on Sunday, they will qualify for a major international competition (Olympics or World Championship) for the first time since 1978. They’re playing without Al Horford, but have been led by James Feldeine, a New York native who plays in the Spanish League, and the Rockets’ Francisco Garcia.

Mexico is the other team with its destiny in its own hands. And with Puerto Rico having already clinched a top-four spot, Mexico has a better shot of knocking off P.R. and clinching their own berth in the W.C.O.B. on Sunday.

The big game on Sunday will be between Canada and Argentina (2 p.m. ET). The loser of that game will finish fifth or sixth and fail to qualify for the World Cup. The winner, however, isn’t necessarily in either, because they could be tied for fourth with Venezuela.

In a two-way tie, head-to-head is the first tiebreaker.

If Canada, Mexico and Venezuela all win Sunday, Mexico would finish third (with 12 points), Venezuela would finish fourth (because they beat Canada), and Canada would finish fifth.

If Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela all win Sunday, Mexico would finish third (with 12 points), Argentina would finish fourth (because they beat Venezuela), and Venezuela would finish fifth.

If Canada and Venezuela win, but Mexico loses, all three teams would have 11 points. In that case, Canada would likely finish third (with a +41 point differential going into Sunday), and fourth place could come down to Venezuela’s margin of victory over Jamaica.

If Argentina and Venezuela win, but Mexico loses, all three teams would have 11 points. In that case, Argentina would finish third (2-0) against the other two, Mexico would finish fourth (1-1), and Venezuela would finish fifth (0-2).

That’s not all the possibilities, because the Dominican Republic (if they don’t beat Uruguay) could finish with 11 points too. But you get the picture.

FIBA Americas standings

Team W L PTS Diff. Sunday opponent
Puerto Rico 5 1 11 +46 Mexico
Dominican Rep. 4 2 10 +30 Uruguay
Mexico 4 2 10 +16 Puerto Rico
Canada 3 3 9 +41 Argentina
Argentina 3 3 9 +13 Canada
Venezuela 3 3 9 0 Jamaica
Jamaica 1 5 7 -52 Venezuela
Uruguay 1 5 7 -94 Dominican Rep.

So there are five teams playing for three spots on Sunday. Here’s the schedule, with all the games on ESPN 3.

Sorting out Eurobasket

Eurobasket is 3/5 of the way through the first round, which will wrap up on Monday. The top three teams in each group will advance to the second round.

In Group A, Mike Fratello’s Ukraine squad remains unbeaten, but will play Tony Parker and France on Sunday. In Group B, Lithuania got a big win over Latvia on Friday. Slovenia remains in control of Group C, while Greece and Italy will play for the top spot in Group D on Friday.

Eurobasket top offenses (points scored per 100 possessions) through three games:
1. Greece – 119.2
2. Georgia – 113.9
3. France – 112.9

Eurobasket top defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) through three games:
1. Spain – 75.6
2. Finland – 83.4
3. Czech Republic – 87.0

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas top four
12 FIBA Americas top four
13 FIBA Americas top four
14 FIBA Americas top four
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

FIBA Update: Spain Upset, Puerto Rico Stays Unbeaten

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Thursday was a big day in FIBA qualifications, with the second round of FIBA Americas getting started and Day 2 at Eurobasket seeing a thrilling upset.

Down goes Spain

The story of the day was Slovenia coming back from 10 points down to beat Eurobasket favorite Spain. The Suns’ Goran Dragic led the way for the tournament’s hosts, registering 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

The game was more important for Slovenia, who now looks like a strong candidate to earn one of Europe’s six automatic berths to next year’s World Cup, than Spain. The two-time defending Euro champs have finished first (2011 Eurobasket, 2009 Eurobasket, 2006 World Championship) or second (2012 Olympics, 2008 Olympics, 2007 Eurobasket) in six of their last seven international competitions (the exception being the 2010 World Championship), despite losing preliminary-round games in almost all of them.

But there wasn’t any clear gamesmanship on Spain’s part. Marc Gasol played all but three minutes on Thursday.

Down to the wire

Slovenia-Spain was a great game, and it wasn’t the only thriller on Thursday. Latvia edged Montenegro on a jumper by Kristaps Janicenoks in the final seconds, Croatia beat Georgia on a Ante Tomic, pick-and-roll layup, and Belgium outlasted Germany in overtime.

The ends of these FIBA games can be really fun, because there are fewer timeouts in the final possessions. You’re not allowed to call a timeout on a live ball.

What happened to Turkey?

As someone who witnessed Turkey’s magical run to the 2010 World Championship gold medal game first-hand, it’s disappointing to see how much they’ve fallen off. They’ve been a mess offensively without long-time point guard Kerem Tunceri (whose absence on the roster was the coach’s decision, according to my Turkish friends on twitter) and with Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova combining to shoot 11-for-38 (29 percent).

More disappointing is the Turkish defense, which was dominant in 2010 and has allowed about 108 points per 100 possessions in their two games this week. With their size, they can extend their 2-3 zone out beyond the 3-point line, but they didn’t really go to it until the third quarter on Thursday. And when they did, Italy just picked it apart.

The good news for Turkey is that Hedo’s tan looks fabulous.

Greece back on top

The bad news for Turkey is that, after a day off, they next face Greece, who has the tournament’s best point differential after two games. Greece had a couple of down years (they didn’t qualify for last year’s Olympics), but has looked strong in wins over Sweden and Russia.

Greece is one of seven unbeaten teams. The most surprising of the seven has to be Finland, who has been led by former first-round pick Petteri Koponen. Also unbeaten is the Ukraine, coached by TNT’s Mike Fratello.

Big wins for Canada, Puerto Rico

While Spain can brush off Thursday’s loss, every game at the FIBA Americas tournament is critical right now, because the top four teams after this round of games will earn the automatic bids to next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

So Canada’s 89-67 win over Mexico, putting them in second place with three games to play, was huge. The Spurs’ Cory Joseph, now averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists, has been one of the best players in the tournament.

Also big was Puerto Rico’s win over Argentina. Puerto Rico trailed by 16 midway through the second quarter, but came back and took control with a 13-0 run late in the third. They haven’t clinched a top-four spot just yet, but as the only undefeated team in the tournament, they’re in great shape.

Former Knick and Nugget Renaldo Balkman has been huge for P.R., averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 boards through five games.

Action in FIBA Americas and Eurobasket continues Friday.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

Qualifying For ’14 World Cup Is Wide Open

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Eurobasket has just begun and we’ve already had plenty of surprises across FIBA’s regional tournaments, with teams looking to qualify for next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

In Asia, defending champion China was knocked out in the quarterfinals. In Africa, Nigeria and Tunisia — the two teams that repped the continent in last year’s Olympics — both failed to make the semis. And in the FIBA Americas tournament, Brazil lost all four of their first-round games and was sent home after blowing a 10-point, second-half lead to Jamaica on Tuesday.

Thus far, 10 teams have their tickets punched for Spain (see below). Another 10 (four from the Americas and six from Europe) will receive automatic bids in the next 17 days. Later this year, four wild-card berths will be awarded, giving teams like China and Brazil a shot.

And if Brazil is awarded a wild-card berth, they certainly have the potential to rebound from this year’s performance and make some noise at the World Cup. They have four big men in the NBA: Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Vitor Faverani (signed by the Celtics this summer). But none of the four was in Caracas this week, leaving Marcelo Huertas without a competent big man to run the pick-and-roll with.

Their 0-4 performance was still a shock. Brazil gave the U.S. its toughest game at the 2010 World Championship and finished second to Argentina at the 2011 FIBA Americas tourney.

But give credit to Jamaica for it’s comeback, led by former Cav Samardo Samuels, who led all scorers with 21 points and who hit all nine of his fourth-quarter free throws. A pair of freebies by Akeem Scott won the game for Jamaica in the final seconds.

Brazil’s ouster gives Canada a better shot at one of the four automatic berths. The Canadians are without Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, but went 3-1 in the first round. They still have some work to do, as the eight teams remaining in Caracas will play four games — Thursday through Sunday — against the teams they’ve yet to face, and after that, the top four teams in the standings will qualify for the semifinals and next year’s World Cup. Canada’s most important game could be Saturday against the Dominican Republic.

The lack of NBA players participating has made the FIBA Americas tournament wide open. And the same may hold true at Eurobasket, which tipped off Wednesday in Slovenia. With Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez on board, Spain is still the clear favorite. And France, with Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, is a lock to get one of the other top six spots.

But after that, things will get interesting. And Exhibit A is Finland’s tourney-opening victory over Turkey, the team that made a fantastic run to the gold medal game in 2010 and has a frontline of Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik.

If you need a basketball fix with another month to go before training camp, there’s plenty of international hoops for you over the next three weeks. NBA TV will have some games, and the others can be seen on ESPN3.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

O Canada! Toronto Raptors Raise The Stakes For Nash, Offer 3-year Deal





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you thought three years and $34 million was too much for the Boston Celtics to offer Kevin Garnett at 36, you’re going to cringe at what the Toronto Raptors are reportedly offering Steve Nash, 38, to return home to his native Canada to continue his career.

But if you feel the way we do about both of these NBA elder statesmen, the three years and $36 million the Raptors put on the table to Nash, per ESPN.com‘s Marc Stein, is right on the money for a player that could make the Raptors a factor in the Eastern Conference playoff chase as well as revive a franchise.

The Raptors are just one of several teams believed to be in the running for Nash, who is also being courted in free agency by the Suns, Mavericks and Nets. But they are the only one of the four capable of offering the two-time MVP the chance to come home and put more than just his face on Canadian basketball for generations of fans both old and young.

Nash playing for the home team would cause havoc, the good kind, for the Raptors. He would also be reunited with Raptors boss Bryan Colangelo, who as an executive in Phoenix years ago acquired Nash in free agency and set him on the path to those two MVPs.

(more…)

And One: Hope vs. Reality

*Not so fast. Having the Pacific Northwest jewel back in the league would be great, but reports that plans for a Seattle arena are gaining momentum may not mean much in NBA terms. At least not any time in the foreseeable future if the next Hornets owner is committed to staying in New Orleans, as David Stern desires, and not any time at all if the Kings get a building in Sacramento, as is possible. It’s still Sacramento’s game to lose.

*Pirating another city is OK now, right? Having it done to you makes Clay Bennett and Stern terrible people, but turning around and doing it to another market would be cause for celebration? Got it. Seattle may have cover since this would be more Sacramento losing the team than it being stolen away, but no one should be naïve. Seattle, or any interested locale, would be on the same hunt under different circumstances as well.

*Kevin Johnson, the Sacramento mayor and former All-Star point guard, was never naïve. A year ago, amid the rising possibility the Kings were bound for Anaheim, he privately put together a list of teams to steal and instal as tenant should his city overcome years of blundering to finalize a new arena. The Hornets, Hawks and Pistons (before being sold) were, he thought, vulnerable to be looted the same way Anaheim was making a vulture play. Now there is no need for a list, only a simple bottom line. Close an arena deal and the Kings stay. Don’t close an arena deal and there’s no NBA in town, for years and perhaps forever.

*Jazz radio man David Locke can try all he wants to turn Jeremy Lin into an ethnic issue, but comparing his journey with Ichiro is such a bad reach. The Mariners outfielder is from Japan, grew up in a different culture with different training methods and had a language barrier when he came to the United States. Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan, was born in Southern California, grew up in Northern California and attended college in Boston. He went undrafted and got cut by the Warriors and Rockets as basketball decisions, not because he didn’t look the part. (Because an athlete with an Asian background clearly would never be embraced in Oakland/San Francisco or Houston.) Sometimes front-office calls, however wrong they seem in this moment of triumph for a class act like Lin, are just front-office calls.

*Never have the defensive talents of Kentucky shot blocker Anthony Davis, the leader to become the No. 1 pick in June, been better illuminated than through the quotes from opponents and Wildcats coach John Calipari in the profile this week by Chris Dortch. “What you have to do to get to the basket against that guy is almost impossible,” Louisville guard Chris Smith said. And: “I went down there one time, and he just told his guys, ‘Just bring him in here, I’m going to block everything,’ ” Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade said. And: “The best shot blockers I have seen are the ones that let people release the ball and then go get it, and that’s what he does,” Calipari said. “Marcus Camby, when I had him (at UMass), that’s exactly what he did; he never blocked it in the guy’s hand, he just stayed down and waited for him to release it.” Great stuff.

*All indications are the Lakers will retire the No. 34 of Shaquille O’Neal next season. The brief delay, as opposed to doing it in 2011-12, is due to the rush of the schedule after the lockout, not any doubt it will happen. The tribute has been an automatic for years, no matter how many wrongly guessed the bad breakup in 2004 might cost Shaq a spot on the Staples Center wall.

*Gisele Bundchen says keep scrolling. I cannot write the story and read the story at the same time.

*If the Warriors looked around for big deals that included Monta Ellis before the season when they rated themselves a playoff team, imagine the internal conversations now that they’re 8-14 and coach Mark Jackson has stayed more than once with the reserves over Ellis and Stephen Curry in the fourth quarter of close games. Curry is more prized around the league, and Golden State reportedly was insistent on keeping him while dangling Ellis in Chris Paul scenarios with the Hornets. The more the losses add up, the more anything is possible.

*Kris Joseph of Syracuse and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure should have been included in the Tuesday story on the rise of draft prospects from Canada. Both are seniors and have solid chances to be picked. Also, the Canadian at Kentucky is Kyle Wiltjer. Greg Wiltjer is his father who played in the 1984 Olympics. My turnover.

*Don’t be surprised if the Clippers bid to re-sign Chauncey Billups in July even with questions likely to still be surrounding his comeback from a season-ending Achilles’ tear. The intangibles as a leader with championship experience are that meaningful, not to mention a friendship with Paul that pre-dates their arrivals in Los Angeles. As people in Denver and Detroit know best of all, and the Clips quickly learned themselves, Billups makes a valuable contribution apart from the basketball itself. It’s just a matter of agreeing on how much that presence is worth coming off a serious leg injury and turning 36 as training camp opens.

*What’s the big deal about Steve Nash at an All-Star level as he passes his 38th birthday? Great players are supposed to do that in their prime. If he’s still that good in 2024 as retirement approaches, then it will be noteworthy.

Notes From FIBA Day 2

Hooked on Love. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – Day 2 of the World Championship is in the books. The U.S. had a bit of a rough stretch between the first and second quarters against Slovenia, but they recovered well for another win by 20-plus.

That ugly stretch and the travel calls, specifically, were the focus of today’s post-game analysis.

As you’ll read there, Boki Nachbar thought that there weren’t enough of those travel calls made against the U.S. on Sunday. And from all the whistles I heard, I’d say that the Slovenian fans in the crowd agreed with him.

I was actually asking Boki about the refs calling the game loose, because it seemed to me that the U.S. was allowed to push the Slovenians around a bit defensively (even more contact than you regularly see in FIBA ball). But here was his full response…

“The one thing that bothers me is too many times the refs looked away when they traveled. This is FIBA basketball. In FIBA basketball, you’re not allowed to take two steps before you put the ball down. And too many times, the refs don’t call that when Team USA’s on the floor. That’s the only thing that I have to say. Otherwise, they were good.”

***

Kevin Love is beastly. He’s now got 21 boards in 26:38 of playing time over the last two days. That’s 31.5 rebounds per 40 minutes. Not bad.

“That’s what I do,” he says. “That’s how I make my money.”

He admits, though, that his role is a little different than it is back in Minnesota.

“Playing with all these guys, they definitely open up the floor. I know that if I’m going to stay in the game and play minutes, I have to get out there and get every rebound. That’s kind of what coach tells me. Right before I go in the game, he says ‘get me every rebound.’”

And coach Mike Krzyzewski will probably be telling him that a little earlier in the game on Monday.

***

Things continue to go as planned in Group B, with Croatia beating Iran and Brazil cruising past Tunisia. This group will start to get interesting on Monday.

And Nachbar admitted today that his team is focused on its next two games.

“That wasn’t the most important game in the tournament for us, so we’re not too worried or concerned,” he said after Sunday’s loss to the U.S. “Croatia and Brazil are the most important games. They’re our rivals for the second spot in the group, so those are the most important games for us.”

Slovenia plays Croatia in the first game on Monday.

***

For now, the other groups are where the fun is at.

Group D almost had another shocker, as Canada led Lithuania by 17 points midway through the third quarter before blowing the lead missing on three chances to win or tie in the final minute-plus. The win keeps Lithuania tied with France atop the group.

Puerto Rico put another scare into Greece in Group C, but it was Group A that had the two most thrilling games.

Germany upset Serbia 82-81 in double-OT with the Germans’ final points coming on a ridiculous shot by Jan Jagla and Milenko Tepic missing on a drive that could have won it for Serbia in the final seconds.

So I guess Serbia won’t completely withstand the suspensions of Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic after all.

And in the nightcap in Kayseri, Argentina used a 13-0 fourth-quarter run to come back and beat Australia, but not before they came a hair away from blowing it in the final seconds.

Argentina was inbounding the ball with a two-point lead and 3.5 seconds on the clock, but they threw the inbounds pass away without it touching anyone. Australia then inbounded the ball into the corner, and Adam Gibson’s three went in … and out.

So at 2-0, Argentina is the only team in the World Championship that sits alone atop its group’s standings.

***

The U.S. will conclude their three games in three days with Monday’s matchup vs. Brazil (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Brazil has beaten Iran and Tunisia by almost identical scores (81-65 and 80-65), the only team in the tournament, other than the U.S. to have won two games by 15 points or more.

Essentially, this game is for first place in Group B. If the U.S. wins, they’re on their way to a 5-0 mark. And if Brazil wins, they’re not likely to lose two more, and would have the tie-breaker against the U.S. should both teams finish 4-1.

Anderson Varejao, still nursing a sore ankle, has sat out the first two games. But the word from the Brazilian media is that he will play against the U.S., and maybe against Slovenia on Wednesday if his team needs him.

Monday will be an opportunity for American fans to get a good look at Tiago Splitter, who will be playing with the San Antonio Spurs next season.

***

If the U.S. beats Brazil, then we can start looking ahead to their possible round-of-16 matchups and what other teams will be on their side of the bracket, because neither Iran or Tunisia will have a chance against them.

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Turkish lesson of the day: İyi günler! = Have a nice day!

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.